What Is the Decentralized Web (Web 3.0)?

Robert MacDonald

Is a decentralized web the way to go, and is it the future of the world wide web? Should your business be preparing for this transition to decentralization?

What does a decentralized internet mean? A decentralized internet means that many people and devices control the web, and no single person can own or control it.

What Is “Decentralization”?

Decentralization is moving away from central resources, access points, or systems. Unlike more typical centralized infrastructure, the goals of decentralization are to reduce or eliminate reliance on centralized actors or technologies subject to corruption or failure. 

When we think of the internet, we may automatically think of it as “decentralized.” The original specifications and implementation of the initial Internet Protocol (IP) infrastructure were decentralized in that it defined a peer-to-peer (P2P) network where individual network nodes handled routing. 

Many applications, however, thrive on a centralized model. The most prevalent organizational model on the internet is the client/server model, where a single server serves multiple clients who connect to upload or download data. 

In normal operating conditions, this isn’t a huge problem. With the rise of massive cloud infrastructure, mega-platforms, and social networking, however, users and developers alike began to see some potential issues with this model:

  • Security: Centralized servers, while secured, are honeypots for hackers, and even the most secure server can have vulnerabilities. With all-important application or service data housed on a server, one breach can be fatal to the privacy of user data or the operation of the app. This is especially problematic when it comes to protected information or data related to our identities.
  • Monopolization: As large tech companies grow larger and larger, it becomes much more difficult for smaller competitors to enter the market. Following this, centralizing features and functionality is seen as a path that removes user choice and limits a free market. 
  • Ownership: One of the larger technical and political concerns of the decentralization movement is the ownership of data, software, and other intellectual or digital property. In centralized resources, most of our data is owned by companies or governments, and it is difficult to claim ownership. Furthermore, traditionally stable objects like money or art don’t translate well to the digital space without a decentralization mechanism that controls immutability. 

While there are many good and productive things to come out of centralization, many developers, scientists, and security experts see decentralization as a worthwhile goal. 

What Is Web 3.0?

Experts break down the evolution of the web into three phases:

  • Web 1.0: The initial internet was birthed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. People may  remember static web pages with functional, if clumsy, multimedia capacities. Rich with information and potential, Web 1.0 is defined by a lack of interactivity and simple, if useful, editing tools in the form of HTML. 
  • Web 2.0: The next stage of the web’s development is often known as the “social” era of the internet. Developments in client-side scripting (CSS, JavaScript), server-side scripting (PHP, Python, Ruby), and APIs built for interactivity allow users to post and chat with one another in real time.
    These developments led to the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, as the first generations of digital natives began coming of age on the internet, eCommerce and advertising skyrocketed, and the Google search engine industry was also born. 
  • Web 3.0: Web 2.0 relied heavily on the client/server model, with real-time queries to databases providing critical interactivity for social media. Web 3.0 takes these advances and attempts to push them into increasingly decentralized contexts. Users are looking for new P2P technologies that give them freedom and security from monolithic systems. 

The onset of Web 3.0 as the new paradigm for connectivity, data sharing, and app development has come as a response to the massive “mega-platforms” like Google, Facebook, and Apple. 

Users and enterprises alike are looking for ways to decouple their infrastructure in part or in whole from these massive tech giants without sacrificing features. Likewise, users want more options to control their data and how it is shared and used in their professional and personal lives. 

What Are Some Examples of Decentralized Web Projects?

While Web 3.0 is a relatively new technological paradigm, there are rarely clearly defined boundaries between eras. As such, some of the technologies discussed here may have come years ago while still applying to the spirit of decentralization. 

Some technologies pushing the Internet towards decentralization include the following:

  • Blockchain: The invention of Bitcoin in 2009 seemed to be a massive leap forward in the potential of digital currency. While that potential has yet to be fully realized, it also brought a major, unexpected technology into the public space: blockchains.
    These distributed, immutable ledgers promise the ability to manage record-keeping systems without a centralized authority. Or if a central authority existed, distribute day-to-day operations to the network. 
  • BitTorrent: Even before Bitcoin, there was BitTorrent. This file-sharing technology used metadata (torrents) to segment shared files. Rather than expecting users to download a single file from a single server, they could instead download different segments from different peers on the network.
    This distributed both the network burden of uploading and downloading and the responsibility of keeping the file available to share. BitTorrent made the sharing of large media files, software, and documents a reality—and it did so by eliminating the need for a central server.
  • Diaspora: This nonprofit, distributed social network uses independent “pods” as the core of a larger decentralized network of social interaction and sharing. They rely on regional pods to serve local users for tighter and more niche community formation. It also allows end users to download the open-source software and host their own pods. 
  • Blockstack: Blockstack uses blockchain technology to provide a decentralized computing and internet platform. This means that users can develop apps on the platform with a data-ownership mentality in mind. The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission approved Blockstack to sell digital tokens on the exchange—the first company to receive such approval. 

The goal of decentralization is to help users and businesses take back control of computing and the internet, from data to app development and infrastructure. 

Leverage Decentralized Identity Management with 1Kosmos

Decentralization brings some key benefits for users—namely, with the right setup, they allow them to maintain ownership over their private information. 1Kosmos BlockID takes advantage of this functionality to provide decentralized, private, and secure identity management services for enterprise users. 

With BlockID and our private, immutable blockchain, you remove the threat of hacks against a honeypot identity server while placing ownership of identity information back in the hands of the users. 

With BlockID, you can enjoy the following features:

  • Private and Permissioned Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private and permissioned blockchain, encrypts digital identities, and is only accessible by the user. The distributed properties ensure no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target. 
  • Identity-Based Authentication: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and identity verification.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API and SDK.
  • Identity Proofing: BlockID verifies identity anywhere, anytime and on any device with over 99% accuracy.
  • Privacy by Design: Embedding privacy into the design of our ecosystem is a core principle of 1Kosmos. We protect personally identifiable information in a distributed identity architecture and the encrypted data is only accessible by the user.
  • Interoperability: BlockID can readily integrate with existing infrastructure through its 50+ out-of-the-box integrations or via API/SDK. 

To learn more about decentralized identity management and permissionless blockchain, sign up for our newsletter and read about Why a Secure Web 3.0 Starts with Decentralized Identity and Passwordless Access.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.